Sunday, October 5, 2014

Traveling Light

This guest blog is by one of BWI of Atlanta's members, Zarya Alexandra Rubin. This is our first post in a guest blogging series that will help restart BWI of Atlanta's blog!  International Babywearing Week this year is all about sharing the adventure, and our globetrotter Zarya is no stranger to travel.

I'm packing for another trip. The suitcase is full and I still have essential laundry in the dryer, so I'm probably going to have to do the unthinkable and take a second bag. I used to pride myself on traveling light - I once made a year-long solo voyage across Europe with nothing but a single backpack. It was my mission to squeeze it all in and still make carry-on status.

I later became an expert executive traveler: suits, dressy evening wear, was all about the shoes. Whittling my choices down to five pairs was actually quite a challenge. Shoes did me in.

Of course that was long before I had babies...and wraps. Now my packing dilemmas center around which wraps do I bring? How do I stuff them in carefully? How can I leave any of them behind? What if, god forbid, THEY LOSE MY LUGGAGE?
I'm really incapable of only taking one or two wraps as my husband urges me to do.  First off, I need a good travel wrap; a beater that will hold up to airport schlepping and front carries because I'll have a big backpack to contend with. That's usually my Gotham. Then I need a sleepy wrap, which has always been Spearmint Etini, but she's getting short as my little grows bigger, heavier, squirmier. 

And then there’s Fable shorty. On my last trip I ended up rucking my daughter for hours, she even slept on my long walks through the city; I got over my fear of public back wrapping out of necessity. 

I have to take one long wrap and I only have one these days, and it's a beauty and a workhorse: Farrand turquoise. New, still a bit crunchy, but softening up and knocks my baby out in a FWCC like nobody's business. Since my husband isn't joining us on this trip, I need all the help I can get. 

Travel day is here and things go seamlessly at the airport.  They don’t make me unwrap her during the security check, although I do get a weird pat down that involves reaching in and around the baby. I see lots of families wrangling strollers and screaming babies and I feel somehow unburdened.  Of course things were going too well when I learn our flight is delayed. And delayed. And suddenly her perfectly timed flight nap turns into an unhappy baby at the gate. But thanks to Gotham we achieve a wrap nap and all is well as we wait for the new plane to arrive.


We are making the journey to Montreal for a very special reason: my grandmother is turning 100. A Holocaust survivor and an immigrant who arrived in a strange land and barely spoke English, she has lived through things most of us will never understand or could ever imagine. The last time I visited her I wrapped my daughter and she said: “Vat is mit die Schmata?” (which loosely translates from Yiddish as “What’s up with the rag?”). I’m hoping for a better reaction this time when we show up at the big family party at her residence. It was difficult to pick an outfit to wear to the event, something not too formal, not too casual, breastfeeding-friendly (or at least not averse), and appropriate for the fickle seasonal issues of Montreal in September.

But there was no doubt in my mind which wrap I would pick. I wrap her in Farrand and all is well. The room is filled full of friends and relatives, but to my overwhelmed 13 month old, they are all strangers. Unwrapped, she unravels into a ball of tears. But when I wear my daughter she is quite possibly the most delightful baby I’ve ever seen – she greets everyone she meets with a wave, and often a few kisses. She laughs loudly, throwing her head back and kicking her little feet. With the security of being attached to me, the warmth of my body and the nearness of my breasts, she is unstoppable. There are moments from this day I will never forget: the four generations of women in my family, my one-year-old stealing bread and cheese from her 100-year-old great-grandmother and then feeding it back to her, and my brave daughter eventually letting me unwrap her and tackling the stairs all by herself.


It’s a whirlwind vacation: she gets to know her older cousin, Misha; we celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) with apples and honey; I roam the streets of the city I grew up in.

Before we know it, it's time to head home to Atlanta. There were many beautiful babywearing moments in Montreal and many moments of acknowledgement between fellow babywearers in the wild walking the sidewalks and the parks. And when all of the adorable older French ladies oohed and ahhed and ooh lalala-ed over my daughter, they could get close but not close enough to startle her in a foreign language. And that’s just one of my favorite parts of babywearing; the security and the comfort it provides for my baby, so that even being in a strange place still feels a bit like home to her.

Another is the fact that my curious daughter gets to experience the world through my eyes, adult height, looking around and taking it all in.

Lastly, there is the catalog of memories that will be forever associated with a particular wrap and a particular carry. I remember reading a Margaret Atwood short story from Dancing Girls where the main character was able to recall past events based on what she wore. I’m a lot like that, and now it is all associated with wraps; the sentimental factor, the feel of the fabric, the richness of the colors, and the escape from wearing terrible nursing clothes.


On the flight home I decide to brave it and wear Farrand for traveling, even though it’s a special, delicate flower that pulls if you look at it wrong.  It doesn’t matter because this wrap is never leaving and I believe that if  you love something, you should use it. Wear it proudly. Wrap your baby. Feel beautiful even when you haven’t slept in days (or months). I used to secretly roll my eyes when I saw a baby next to me on a plane, and now I’m on the receiving end of those looks. What I want to say is “Don’t worry. She’s not that kind of baby. I nurse her so her ears don’t hurt during takeoff and landing, and the rest of the time she’s calm because I wear her. Yes, I wrap her. Yes, in this fabric. You’ll see...”